Four Letter Nerd

Ranking the Pixar Movies; Every Stinking One of Them

I continue my dabbling in family friendly affairs this week (after all, I am the “Game of Thrones” writer around here) with what may prove to be the most hotly debated topic I’ve presented here at 4LN (which is saying something, because Game of Thrones book readers and show watchers can be a very fickle, angry bunch). And much like my list comparing Game of Thrones to the great shows of all time, I will not declare any ties to try and avoid tougher decisions with my rankings. So here they are, from number 15 to 1 (including the most recent Pixar movie, “Inside Out), a comprehensive ranking of all of Pixar’s films.

15. Cars 2

I believe what makes Pixar’s movies so successful is that they are true “family” pictures, not just movies made for kids that parents must take their kids to. But the “Cars” series is the exception to this. While there are a few fun pop culture references the adults get that the kids won’t, it is mostly the fun of talking Cars. That is especially true of the sequel, which went to production far quicker than any other Pixar sequel (including sequels still in production).

14. Cars

See above, with the exception of the montage/critic of the interstate system that ruined entire cities because it directed traffic away from them. Also notable were the 10 billion (not million, billion according to LA Times in 2010) dollars in merchandise sales this film produced (hence, the reason for the quick sequel).

13. Ratatouille

A mouse cooking in a kitchen while French chefs speak poor English with really bad accents? Sure, that sounds like an amazing concept. I will give Pixar credit for making a decent film out of a concept most studios would have been unable to salvage. Did I mention the mouse is cooking food?

12. WALL-E

The only real attempt by Pixar to be political, WALL-E warns us of the dangers of our overuse of the planet’s resources with the use of a Robot who finds “life” on a lifeless earth. The politics of the film don’t put it as far down for me as much as I just have a hard time with movies where Robots who can’t talk are the main protagonists.

11. Monster’s University

Everything from here on out is a movie that I really enjoyed and/or own, so it gets more difficult to rank them from this point forward. And the lone prequel in the Pixar collection enters the list here as we discover how Mike and Sully became the scare team they are in Monster’s Inc.

10. The Incredibles

What allowed “The Incredibles” to crack the top ten of this list? Demon Baby!!! I think that’s all I need to say.

And being that Superheroes were beginning to appear with regularity on the big screen in 2004, “The Incredibles” fit in perfectly, asking the question, “What would happen if Superheroes were forced to be just regular people?”

9. Brave

Brave was the first Pixar movie to feature a female in the role of main protagonist. It also has a historical context and soundtrack unique compared to all other Pixar movies thanks to its Scottish setting. I thought Brave was very close to the two movies that came before it on this list. But the strength of Merida’s character push this one above movies 10 and 11.

8. Monster’s Inc.

Monster’s Inc. was given the unfortunate task of following “Toy Story 2,” a placement that I believe hurt our perceptions of Mike and Sully at the time. Billy Crystal, fresh off turning down the role of Buzz Lightyear, did not want to make that mistake again, appearing with John Goodman as the voice stars of this important life lesson in why Monsters scare us when we were kids.

7. A Bug’s Life

The follow up to “Toy Story” (the first one that is), “A Bug’s Life” was significant in that it showed the quality Pixar put into its first movie would stay consistent throughout their future endeavors. They didn’t just have one great idea, only to flounder in quality just to make more money after it. This tale of Flik, a bug looking to save his ant colony from grasshoppers, exhibited the same creativity to Pixar’s first feature film.

6. Up

Asia and Africa are only the continents (well inhabitable continents that is) a Pixar movie has not used as the setting for. South America had its turn with “Up” and the use of Angel Falls (the real life inspiration for Paradise Falls in the movie) as the end destination for Carl and his accidental travel companion, Russell. The immediate tears produced by the opening montage of Carl’s relationship with his wife may be one of the best scenes Pixar has ever done. “Up” was also the first Pixar movie to be nominated for the Academy Awards Best Picture (one of only three animated movies to be nominated).

5. Toy Story

 

The one that started it all, not just for Pixar, but as the first feature length computer animated movie. And let’s all take a moment and be thankful for that. Think about it. What if something like “Barnyard” had been the first computer animated feature film? It’s likely everyone would’ve flocked to the theatres to see it just because of the cool graphics and the studios would follow suit, putting out crappy movies quickly in order to ride the wave of digital animation. But the first “Toy Story” set a standard that demanded quality from digital animation, not just flashy visuals.

4. Inside Out

Now this may just be based on emotion. I have just seen the latest Pixar feature film and so the emotion that comes with that is still fresh on my mind. So maybe a better barometer of how this one will stack up to the rest will be after more time as passed. But there can be no doubt it was a stellar first impression. I don’t know if a voice cast for a Pixar movie has been cast better for their respective roles than this one. And that perfect Pixar formula combining life lesson, laughs, and tearful moments is as evident in “Inside Out” as any picture Pixar has put forth.

3. Finding Nemo

It was a tough call putting Nemo here over the three movies previously mentioned.  But Marlin and Dory’s adventure featuring rehabbing sharks, jet stream surfing turtles, and fluent whale speak just had too many great moments to keep out of the top 3. I am surprised it took as long as it did to work out a deal for a sequel for this Pixar classic.

2. Toy Story 2

Pixar not only set the standard for what digital animation should be, it shattered a couple of preconceived rules about sequels. One of those was the Disney company policy of never releasing a sequel of one of their movies into theaters. Does anybody out there own a copy of those wonderful straight to DVD sequels of the Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Tarzan? Well that was the planned policy for Toy Story’s sequel; small production costs to maximize big profits. But the budget got too big to go cheap, so Disney prepared the sequel for theatrical release.

Another rule Toy Story 2 ignores is that a sequel is never as good as the first. Well Woody and Buzz’s second adventure delivered significantly more laughs than the first edition and produced its own original story, avoiding the pitfalls so many sequels endure by staying too close to the first movie. So not only did Toy Story 2 meet the expectations of the first one, it surpassed it. And speaking of sequels….

1. Toy Story 3

The third (and what we thought was the final)edition of Toy Story takes the top spot. But the much like the previous edition of Toy Story, the most recent edition barely avoided being another straight to DVD Disney sequel.

The time the third movie was being considered was also when it seemed that Disney was prepared to break up with Pixar. Disney would’ve kept the rights to Woody, Buzz, and crew and made their own version of the movie. But the Mouse came to their senses, re-upped with Pixar, and the delay proved to be perfect for the new plot of the third edition.

Another movie with toys trying to get back to Andy was unlikely to live up to the standard the first two set. But a movie where Andy is ready for college (made likely by the ten year delay between films) and the toys have to consider a life beyond their owner’s need to play with them? That made the third movie not only the best of the Toy Story bunch, but the best of anything Pixar has put on the big screen. The final journey (or so we thought) that saw the Toys face extermination tugs at the heartstrings almost as much as that opening sequence in Up did (I have to say almost on that). And the way this edition brought to close what has turned out to be the Andy chapter of the lives of our favorite toys was brilliantly coordinated, connecting the rest of the series flawlessly.

How is Toy Story 3 the best of Pixar’s movies? I present to you exhibit A.

So there you have it. All 15 Pixar movies, all ranked from worst to first. Let me know if you disagree and why.

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Jeff Merrick

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